Haggerty: Lucic shouldn't change a thing

588716.jpg

Haggerty: Lucic shouldn't change a thing

WILMINGTON, Mass. The one thing Milan Lucic cant do in the face of greater NHL scrutiny is change the way he plays the game.

Milan Lucic forcibly sat out his first game of the season Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens after he was suspended by the league for a boarding call on Philadelphia Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. The play itself appeared to be boarding to the naked eye and was tagged with a five-minute major and game misconduct at the time, and Brendan Shanahan tacked on a game for good measure.

Shanahan mentioned Lucics prior history of warnings and fines for a handful of previous incidents leading up to the suspension, and theres little doubt his demolition derby hit on Ryan Miller played into the most recent penalty. The one-game vacation actually wasnt the worst thing in the world to give the left winger a breather in the middle of a season that will be getting very busy for the Bruins during the month of January.

Lucic even joked that the boarding hit got him a key role as a bomb-tossing villain in the HBO 247: Road to the Winter Classic with Wayne Simmonds chasing after like a faux tough guy after the refs stepped in between the two players.

Got my name on HBO, so I guess you get on that show any way you can, right? said a smiling Lucic, who watched the new episode on Wednesday night.

But its not something Lucic wants to get used to, or experience more of in growing increments. Its not something he wants to see, its not something that fans want to see and its certainly not a softness that the Bs coaching staff wants to watch creep into Lucics power-packed game.

Were going to make sure we let him know that we dont want him to change his style, said Claude Julien. The suspension was because of different things. One was a playoff thing that had nothing do with a hit, and the other was a collision with Miller that maybe when they looked back on it they felt like they should have called him for that. Maybe if it had it would have diminished this last suspension, but were just going to ask him to go out and play.

Were a physical team and we dont want that to creep out of our game. The NHL doesnt want that element to creep out of that game either. We want to manage it the best way we can, but you certainly dont want players playing afraid to finish off their checks.

On the other hand, Lucic cant turn his back from the player that leads the Bruins with 73 registered hits this season either. The power forward has led the Bruins over the past four years with 751 registered hits while averaging 188 body checks per season over that four season span that includes an injury-plagued season two years ago.

Thats a ton of demolition derby style hockey hits without any suspensions or egregious acts to injure fellow players, so theres plenty of evidence that Lucic is doing things the right way.

Some players feed on the physicality and emotion between the whistles, and Lucic is one of those emotionally nourished players. The power forwards worst spells in the NHL have come when he drifts away from the body checks and unrelenting intimidation his size and strength combo would suggest.

So altering his game after a standout four-year career thats seen him collect a 30-goal season, a Stanley Cup and a reputation as one of the most fearsome players in the NHL isnt going to happen.

I cant change my game, said Lucic. I play with a lot of emotion and I do everything I can to keep it safe and follow the guidelines of the new hitting protocol. Obviously a big part of my game is being physical and creating emotion, and I cant lose that part of my game. Thats for sure.

One could imagine what would happen if Lucic suddenly became gun shy or hesitant when it come to punishing defensemen with merciless forechecks. Or if Lucic suddenly avoided standing up for teammates such as the Rinaldo case when he sped to Nathan Hortons defense after two Flyers players -- including Rinaldo -- attempted a Malachi crunch on Lucics linemate.

Lucic is able to do all of these things on the edge of good, honest hockey without continually going over the edge, and that was the point he most clearly tried to get across to Shanahan during their phone conversation.

Obviously you dont want to hear from Shanahan again and I was upset that I had to go through that whole process. Its not a guy you want to talk to too much for those reasons, said Lucic. But I wanted to make clear that I understand what hes trying to do and I also understand that Im doing everything I can to make dangerous hits. Thats what Im trying to do in that conversation.

Lucic has five seasons, 300 plus games and more than 800 hits in a respect hockey career without any previous regular season suspensions to vouch for the way he plays the game. So there is ample evidence the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder shouldnt change a thing despite the NHL microscope he now finds himself under following his first instance being Shanabanned.

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

BOSTON – There were a bunch of numbers from Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday that stood out. 

Among the eye-grabbing stats was the fact that the Celtics had taken 42 3s (with 15 makes), an unusually high number of attempts that we may see matched or even surpassed tonight against the Sacramento Kings. 

Don’t count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised to see the Celtics attempt a lot of three-pointers. 

Last season the Celtics took 26.1 three-pointers per game which ranked 11th in the NBA. 

This season they’re up to 31.2 three-pointers attempted and 11.3 made which both rank fifth in the NBA. 

You can count Kelly Olynyk among the Celtics pleased with the team's increased emphasis on shooting 3s. 

The 7-foot led the NBA in shooting percentage (.405) on 3s taken last season.

"We play a lot of spread offense with four shooters, four perimeter guys," Olynyk, who is shooting 38.1 percent on 3s this season, told CSNNE.com. "We're trying to make teams shrink their defense and spray out and hopefully make shots. You're making extra passes, giving up good ones for great ones. And we have some pretty good shooters on our team. That's the way we're trying to play. It's just a matter of us making shots."

And the Celtics face a Kings team ranks among the NBA’s worst at limiting 3-point attempts with Sacramento opponents averaging 28.4 three-pointers taken per game which ranks 25th in the league. 

One of Stevens’ main points about three-pointers is while it’s an important shot for them, they need to be the right shot, the right basketball play at the right time. 

And when asked about the 42 attempts against the Pistons, he was quick to acknowledge those were for the most part the right shots to be taken. 

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day we want lay-ups. And if we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. If the defense shrinks in, you’re able to touch the paint and kick out. Two of our last three games, maybe three of the last four, two-thirds of our possessions we touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s our objective. We’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot. We’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate. And we haven’t scored in transition. To be able to be sitting where we are offensively, a big reason is because we space the floor.”

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

BOSTON – No one is proclaiming DeMarcus Cousins’ demeanor is all that radically different than past seasons. 

But the volatile nature that has often overshadowed his on-the-court-brilliance, doesn’t seem to shine as brightly as it used to. 

Maybe he’s growing up. 

Maybe he’s finally comfortable with his team. 

And then there’s the almighty dollar which was the incentive for one of his teammates, Matt Barnes, to clean up his act as far as racking up technical fouls and being fined by the league. 

I asked Barnes whether there was a light bulb moment or a teammate or player that helped him get on track and not draw so much attention from officials and the league office. 

“It was all the money I was being fined,” he said. “I think I lost like $600,000 over my career for fines. It was time to kind of wake and say ‘hey, they don’t like you so you have to stick to the book.’”

With Barnes returning to Sacramento (he played for the Kings during the 2004-2005 season), he finds an intense, kindred spirit of sorts in Cousins who like Barnes has had his share of technical and fines handed down by the league office. 

This season, Cousins is the NBA’s leader in technical fouls with six. 

“I’ve always had a good head on my shoulders,” Barnes said. “I’m just a passionate player. I play with my emotion on my sleeve. I think DeMarcus does the same thing. What I’m trying to show him now, we have to keep our emotions and energy focused towards the right things. That could be detrimental to the team if it gets out of hand.”

First-year coach Dave Joerger has been pleased to see how different Cousins is to be around on a daily basis as opposed to how he’s perceived. 

“He gets credit for his talent. He gets credit that he’s improved in the league,” Joerger said. “I think he doesn’t get enough credit for the way that his approach to the game and the way that he’s carrying himself and conducting himself has greatly improved. He’s a good person. Now being with him, I see improvement over the last three years, the way that he goes about his business. I think that’s very positive.”